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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • VINTAGE CHRISTMAS ART

Bank Garage: 1934

Bank Garage: 1934

San Francisco April 14, 1934. "East side looking south, Montgomery Street commercial buildings." In later years the Gold Rush-era building here housing the Chicago Specialty Co. became the law offices of flamboyant San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli. Today this block is part of the Jackson Square Historic District, while down the street at the next corner the Transamerica Pyramid rises. Large format negative by Roger Sturtevant for the Historic American Buildings Survey. View full size.

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Melvin Belli

I used to wander SF in the late '60s, photographing things that interested me. On a couple of occasions I walked past Mel Belli's offices and glanced in the windows, and did see him inside once or twice. I have lived near Sonora California for 20 years now, which is where Mr. Belli was born and raised, and is now buried.

For many, many years, Mel Belli listed his personal phone number in the SF phone directory (anyone remember those, LOL). However, instead of putting it in his own name, he listed it in his dogs' names - Weldon Rumproast. Over the years he had several dogs with that name, adding a number at the end. A friend once found the name Weldon Rumproast III in the phone book and called it. He spoke with Melvin Belli for quite some time, and it wasn't until they nearly finished the conversation that he realized who it was he was speaking to!

Oldest sign

Page 213 of "San Francisco of the 1930s," published by the WPA says, "San Francisco's oldest sign, hanging from the Genella Buiulding, 728 Montgomery St., states in faded black and gold letters that 'H. and W. Pierce...Loans and Commissions' once did business here, exchanging paper and coins for gold bullion."

Dorothea Lange

The 728 Montgomery St. photo studio of Dorothea Lange was up the stairs to the left of the sign for Conradi Ltd Mountain Wines.

[Her husband, artist Maynard Dixon, had his studio at 728. Lange's had been at 716 and later 802 Montgomery. -tterrace]

Facelift in progress

A few updates here and there, but generally well preserved:

That flag in the distance

Could it possibly be a NRA (National Recovery Act) flag?

[Here's an example. -tterrace]

Whats that?

What is the flag on the tower in the distant background? looks like an eagle?

[It's atop the Shell Building at Bush and Battery. -tterrace]

The Montgomery Block

The four story building in the next block (now the site of the Transamerica pyramid) was the historic 1853 Montgomery Block.

First a professional office building and at one time the tallest structure west of the Mississippi, then later known for artists, writers, and various bohemian inhabitants, it was demolished to make way for a parking lot in 1959.

Is that Geppetto's Workshop?

Since there is a decidedly Italian flavor to this neighborhood, I noticed that just between the Conradi Mountain Wines and Washington Broom Co., at 728 Montgomery, there is a tiny doorway advertising "Puppets". My imagination wanders to thoughts of a hand-carved Pinnochio or other individually made specialties. Could there have actually been a business that sold only puppets?

[That was Perry Dilley's Puppet Theater. -tterrace]

Magnificent Failure

Barely visible, at the right, is a 34 DeSoto Airflow.

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